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CNN host calls out Sean Hannity for ‘deceptive’ video editing

By David Edwards and Stephen Webster
Sunday, September 12, 2010 20:57 EDT
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Fox News personality Sean Hannity is an opinion host, not a reporter: a fact made abundantly clear in last week’s fracas over what one CNN host called on Sunday “deceptive” video editing.

Most journalists would get fired over something like this.

Last week, Hannity featured a clip of President Obama explaining why he will allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, just as the prior administration had planned. Introducing the video, Hannity called Obama’s words “a rare moment of honesty” that he hopes voters will watch.

“… [Taxes] are scheduled to go up substantially next year, for everybody,” the president said.

Cut back to Hannity.

“I know the anointed one will make sure that happens,” he quipped disapprovingly.

But, that’s not really what the president said.

“Under the tax plan passed by the last administration, taxes are scheduled to go up substantially next year, for everybody,” he explained, in an unedited version of the remarks. “By the way, this was by design.”

The president has suggested that America keep the tax cuts afforded to the vast majority of Americans, while allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire. As Obama puts it, he’d like to keep the Bush tax cuts that pertain to 98 percent of Americans, and do away with the substantial tax benefits for the wealthy.

Cutting right to the chase, CNN’s Howard Kurtz on Sunday called out Hannity’s audio/visual trickery.

“Isn’t that kind of editing — what’s the word — deceptive?” he mused.

“It’s a fun and easy way to make people you disagree with say things that make them unelectable,” summarized Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who was first to catch Hannity’s edit.

“Hannity and [Fox News personality Glenn] Beck use this technique often and repeatedly,” video blog Crooks and Liars noted. “Hannity, for instance, has repeatedly run a deceptively edited video of Obama speaking abroad in order to smear him as being a president who presents a weak American face. It’s almost a nightly feature of Beck’s show, who uses selective edits to smear everyone from Van Jones to Jim Wallis to President Obama.

“Indeed, selectively cropped video has been a specialty of Fox News generally for some time now, and it has been long remarked.”

A similarly deceptive video was employed by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart in his media assault on former Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod. She was fired from her job after he released a video which was edited to show an apparent admission of on-the-job racism, but unedited footage of her speech showed she was actually recounting a decades-past experience that taught her the fruitlessness of racist attitudes.

The story was pushed heavily by Fox News, first online before Sherrod’s resignation, then on television after she left her job; though host Bret Baier would later deny that the network even covered it.

Sherrod, who refused an offered return to her job, called the network’s efforts to smear her a manifestation of racism.

This video is from CNN’s Reliable Sources, broadcast Sept. 12, 2010.

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